Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Adventures, Adventures, Adventures!


We've been having a gorgeous summer in Seattle.  Dry and warm and only occasionally hot.  The garden would like a little more water, but we help it along.

After our trip to Maine we started off with a bang: Crazy Hair Day at school!  Originally I wasn't going to have Zane go to school the day after we got home, but Crazy Hair Day and two birthday celebrations was too much to miss.  Michael picked up some hair gel for us, and I made some awesome spikes.  I personally think Zane had the best and craziest hair!

He wanted to have crazy hair again, so when we went to the Fremont Solstice Parade the following Saturday I brought along the tube of gel and spiked him up once we got there.  We rode my bike down on the hot, hot day, and lucked out on a shady spot to watch the parade.  This is the first year I brought Zane down, and he really liked it.  We got there too late to see the naked bicyclists.  Maybe next year!  As we were walking back to my bike many people complimented him on his hair.  "Nice spikes, Dude!"  He really got a kick out of that.

The next weekend's adventure was a Sunday matinee performance for kids at Teatro ZinZanni!  Teatro is in Seattle in an old spiegeltent of wood and canvas.  The performances are non-animal and contain music, comedy, and acrobatics.  For this one the kids could all sit right up front in a huge mosh pit.  I loved watching Zane's face as he saw a young girl swirl and do acrobatics in the air on silver hoops, a man wind himself up and down on a rope, pirates, genies, live music, glitter from the ceiling ....  He loved it enough that I may try to bring him to something more full length at Teatro, or maybe Cirque du Soleil next summer.  There are a lot of circus-arts classes in Seattle, too, which we can try when he's a bit older.

During this time we had a little bit of a set-back with soccer.  During the last month or so, Zane has sometimes been feeling very shy and not very confident.  We began the new soccer season with a bit of woe, as we thought we had the same coach as last session, and when we realized we needed to move to a different coach's class, Zane had a big breakdown and much sadness.  It took us until about the third Saturday to break out of the cycle of sadness and needing to run back to me for hugs all through soccer.  It helped tremendously that his friends and neighbors Caz and Henry joined his class.  Now Zane is doing his best ever.  He'll surely move up to the next level for the fall sessions.

Since the weather has been so nice, we decided to get his little blow up pool out.  Alas, it lasted a few years but it would no longer stay inflated.  I went to the store to get another, but I couldn't find just a simple pool.  So I came home with a combo pool/slip 'n' slide/sprinkler!  It's been a big hit.  The plastic seems a bit sturdier than the previous one, too, so hopefully we'll get a few more years out of it.

Another way to stay cool is -- go find some snow!  I took Zane on a looooong trip to Mount Rainier one sunny day.  It takes almost three hours to get there, so it's a once a year kind of adventure.  Last year we had no snow in the winter, and Zane was pretty bummed, but we got plenty up on the mountain in July!  We spent about two hours up there slipping and sliding and poking in the snow.  We made little snow babies and a tiny fort sized about right for elves.  There was much more snow than I had hoped for, so we really couldn't walk very far as the trails were completely covered with snow.  The slope is steep enough that it was hard work slipping and sliding up.  I'll have to shoot for a late August or early September trip next year.  Zane's absolute favorite thing was poking overhanging snow crusts into all of the melt streams.  He could have done that all day long.  He even said, "I wish I could stay up here forever!"  I'd say that was a pretty successful outing.

Zane had been asking about how things are made, so we had been reading books about metal, plastic, glass, and paper.  I told him about glass blowing and decided to see if I could find some.  A studio in downtown Seattle has a fairly continuously used studio that the public are welcome to visit.  With Zane's friend Evelyn and her Mom and sister, we set off on a downtown adventure to see glass blowing and the big downtown library.  The glass studio was very cool.  While we didn't actually see glass blowing, we did see lots of glass shaping and glass blobs going in and out of red hot furnaces.  The kids also really enjoyed seeing the part of the studio where glassblowing supplies were sold; walls and walls of colored glass rods and weird tools.  There was a gallery at the front of the studio and shop, and that place gave me a bit of an anxiety attack.  Beautiful glass objects were displayed out in the open, and we had 2 almost 4 year olds and a toddler.  I glanced at one swirly pink bowl and it was TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.  I told Zane not to bump into anything, because that one bowl alone was a year of college (or part of a year).  I wanted Zane to have something from the adventure, so I bought a small paperweight with iridescent swirls on the bottom and a yellow starfish on top.

The downtown Seattle Public Library was a bit more relaxing.  We drive by it every week on the way back from Kung Fu, and I had been promising to take Zane there. Emily and baby Kaylee hung out in the kids' area where Kaylee was finally happy, and I took Evelyn and Zane on a tour.  We saw words printed on the floor by the holds shelves.  We went up 4 sets of increasingly narrow yellow escalators to get to the top of the library and then looked down down down to the main floor.  I had to hold the kids up to the railing to get a really good look.  Then we took an elevator back to the kids' section after watching the workings of the elevator in the glass elevator shaft.  After some snacks outside we were back on a bus home!

In mid-July I took Zane to A Day Out with Thomas, which is something I'd been meaning to do for the last few summers.  At the Snoqualmie train station, a train made to look like the book/TV character Thomas from the Island of Sodor pulls passengers around.  We got there late in the day and immediately had to stand in line for the train, even though we had tickets for a specific time.  We got on the train, but we couldn't actually see the Thomas engine, so it was like riding on any train.  The view was not great, as we were mostly in trees or some sort of a ditch.  At one point we passed by the magnificent Snoqualmie Falls, but you could only see the very top of the falls if you stood on tip-toe on the right side of the train.  I was pretty unimpressed, but Zane really liked all of the old rusty trains and train equipment we saw along the tracks.  When we got off he was very anxious to make sure to tell a conductor about the rusty trains he had discovered on the ride.  Just in case they didn't already know.  Then we went to enjoy the other activities around the ride, and we finally saw the Thomas engine.  Zane has been in a "no pictures" mode for a while ("Mama, you have enough pictures."), so I don't have a good one from this (and many other) adventures.  He got to go in a bouncy house, play with train tables, drive an electric model train, eat ice cream, see Sir Thopham Hatt from a distance, and peruse the gift shop.  We came home with two trains. 

For our most recent adventure, we went to see a real machine, Big Bertha.  Big Bertha is currently the biggest tunnel boring machine on earth.  She will excavate a tunnel under the Seattle waterfront to replace our aging (and earthquake damaged) raised roadway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  The city was holding a special meet Big Bertha day where the public could go to the work site and see the machine before it disappears under the earth for 14 months.  I think I was more excited about this than Zane.  I was disappointed that we couldn't get super close to Big Bertha, but it was still very cool to see her in the tunnel pit.  We also got to see lots of other massive equipment and speak to engineers on site.  Sections of tunnel wall were also laid out for all to see, and we signed our names to a section of the wall along with thousands of others.  In a few years when we drive through, we'll know our names are there somewhere!  I think the best part of the adventure for Zane was that I bought him a Sprite.  It took him all day to finish it, and he kept proudly telling Michael, "Mama bought me a soda!"

In the spirit of Seattle tourism we all finally took a ride on the Ducks!  The Ducks are WWII amphibious vehicles that take folks on a 1.5 hour tour of Seattle by land and by lake.  The tour guides/drivers are known for keeping up a running banter of history and jokes, and Zane kept turning to Michael and saying, "Is that real?  Is that a joke?"  I had a blast, and I think Zane enjoyed it a bit, but he kept telling me not to sing so loud.  Shades of teen behavior to come!  The best part was when the Duck drove right down a boat ramp into Lake Union.  The view was fantastic, and at one point a float plane took off and flew right over our heads.

At this point I have to tell you that I was beginning to feel pretty tired of adventures.  But summer is when they all happen!  I guess when the weather closes in we can go back to having laid back "nothing days", as Zane calls them.  We still have coming up:  two nights of camping, Zane's birthday party, the Evergreen State fair with possible demolition derby or monster trucks, and I might try to squeeze in a visit to Wild Waves water park.  Just listing all that makes me tired, though!

We have been making some academic progress at home, too.  Grandma gave Zane a alphabet letter writing workbook, and one day I got it out for Zane when I was trying to keep him busy.  I was going to help him with it, but next thing I know, he had made a big A and little a all by himself!  I was pretty surprised as he hasn't done too much writing.  I haven't seen a repeat of this skill, but it shows he's ready.  He can write a Z and A for his name, so I think if I just worked with him he could probably write his name.

I have been doing a much better job of working with him on his bicycle skills, though!  Zane has been zipping around on his balance bike for a year and a half now.  For about a month or so he has also been able to ride his pedal bike without training wheels on flat or downhill sidewalks.  I think he just needs a little more strength in his legs to make it easier for him.  Maybe he will be getting a new, lighter bike very soon ...  :)


Monday, July 22, 2013

Maine 2013

Well, I'd better do another blog post before all of the hoopla coming up for Zane's fourth birthday!

I probably always say this, but I feel like Zane's body and brain have been doing a big push on growing lately.  He's been loving ballet, making big improvements in soccer, and starting to cruise on his real pedal bike all on his own (no training wheels)!  He and Michael put together a small rocking chair, and Zane did a really good job helping.  He's also been continuing his Zane's Big Questions Series with questions such as:
     "After the Dinosaurs, where did people come from?" 
     "Where do bees poop?"
     "Where did the first chicken come from?"
     "Why is water cold?"  [at room temperature]
     "How does hair grow?"
     "Why is there metal in our blood?  Why do different animals have different metals in their blood?"
     After a story about a bad splinter I got on a replica of the Mutiny on the Bounty we talked about the original Bounty, and then the replica sinking in Hurricane Sandy.
     Which of course led to lots of discussion about how hurricanes and tornadoes form.
     One night he asked me about bombs and was quite worried about them.  I have no idea where this came from.  We talked about them for a long time, and I convinced him he was very lucky to live in a place where he didn't have to worry about that.

In May we went to the Northwest Folklife Festival on a Monday afternoon.  I had to work that weekend, so we only had Monday to go.  It was drizzly, so we didn't stay outside much, but we had a great time watching musicians and dancing together for a bit.  Zane wanted me to carry him for all of the dancing, so it was pretty tiring!

In June we took a trip to Maine to see Grandma, Pa Jim and Becky, and for me to go to a cousin's wedding.  Flying with Zane gets easier and easier, but I've also learned to expect no napping, ever.  On the leg of our flight from Newark to Portland, we got on a very small plane called a Q400.  The air conditioning was not working on the plane, so the pilots had their door cockpit open.  As we boarded I glanced inside and saw the all digital display panels, and pointed out to Zane how cool it was to see inside.  And then the pilot invited him in!  He even let me step up!  It was such an amazing experience since cockpits are generally secured in these post-9/11 days.

Pa Jim picked us up at the airport and we got to Harpswell late at night and conked right out.  Last year Zane had a great time helping Pa Jim with his garden, so he headed out there first thing in the morning.  A neighbor had hired some workers to take out some brush, and we encountered a tractor/chipper at the end of the driveway.  The man driving the tractor invited Zane up and even let him steer the tractor backwards and forwards a bit!  Heavenly.  We spent some time investigating the woods near the ocean and got good and muddy. 

The next day was a bit drizzly, and we headed out to the Boothbay Harbor Aquarium.  It was a small building with a really impressive array of live enormous and mutant lobsters.  There was a display of lobstering equipment on the back porch, and Zane learned to band a lobster claw.

I'd been trying to find time to visit with my friend Zach, and we managed it on the next day.  Zane had fun with Zach's three kids and their enormous outdoor CedarWorks play ground.  When we left Zach asked if Zane would like some red rain pants his kids had outgrown.  Zane's face lit up!  Some friends at school had rain pants, and Zane had been asking and asking for them!  Next we headed to a farm with Pa Jim to pick up some fresh yogurt.  On the way home Zane said, "Maine is as fun as Hawaii!"  That's a pretty ringing endorsement!  I have to agree that Maine in the summer is the best.

Next stop was Grandma's house.  She has bunk beds just for grandsons, and we created an awesome fort in the lower level out of blankets.  Zane made an airplane with a lot of steering wheels drawn onto and old box.   Then he and Grandma made yummy granola one morning, and then went out to do some gardening.  Grandma and I were getting ready to go to a cousin's wedding, and Zane helped us pick out toenail polish and cards.  Back home the toenail polish was irresistible, so he and I both got gold toes with a cover of sparkles.  He had a hard time keeping his toes still while the polish dried, so I help them still while reading him a book in the warm sunshine on the porch.  It was delightful!

Sunday turned out to be our busiest day ever!  We dragged kayaks out from under the house and Zane and Grandma washed them.  Some of the kayaks were in this very cool 4' high basement which only Zane could stand up in!  Being a kid comes in handy sometimes.

Next we went down into Camden to see the Megunticook River waterfall and investigate low tide.  My Mom (aka Grandma) has been taking courses in being a local naturalist, and she wanted to practice her low-tide knowledge on us.  We had a picnic in the Camden Amphitheater and found silk flower petals left over from my cousin's wedding the day before.  The Amphitheater is a really fun place to explore and hide in.  It's also a photo-op at every turn.  A lovely fountain at the top of the amphitheater by the library was especially fun to dabble in.

We managed to fit in some gift shopping for Fathers Day and some ice cream by a river before heading home for a much needed nap.  And then we met my friends Ann and Jon for an adventure of kayaking on Lake Megunticook!  Zane got to be in Grandma's boat.  We paddled around for about two hours and had a fantastic time.  But is that enough?  No!  Ann and Jon came with Zane and I for some junk food and candlepin bowling in Rockland.  The bowling alley had an arcade and a tattoo vending machine.  You could not make a better paradise for Zane.

On our last full day in Maine we had a lovely visit with my other newly married cousin and her husband and my Aunt.  My visits with everyone for this trip had been relaxing and almost entirely outdoors!

We needed to head back to the airport, but we managed a little bit more sightseeing before we left.  The Rockport Marine Park had an old bell buoy to explore, lime kilns, and an old train like the ones used at the kilns.  I had just read Zane a book about Andre the Seal, so we also stopped to pay our respects to his statue.

We had a bit of a long flight home, but overall it was a great trip!  Traveling with Zane gets more enjoyable all the time.